John Schouten (1991) ,"Sorting", in SV - Highways and Buyways: Naturalistic Research from the Consumer Behavior Odyssey, eds. Russell Belk, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 112-113.

Highways and Buyways: Naturalistic Research from the Consumer Behavior Odyssey, 1991     Pages 112-113


John Schouten

We move again,

this time cross-country, so we spend

a day in the basement

deciding what to save, what to throw away.


Certain things we keep --

a cast iron skillet,

some silver pieces from our wedding

wrapped in tissue --


other things, old parkas,

boots and the like go into a box

for Goodwill it's little enough.

Then I come to the deep stuff.


Stuff from my youth.

A microscope my father gave me

when I was six or seven

I keep for my own sons


now seven, five and three.

I picture them marvelling

at the same prepared slides I stared at as a child,

wishing for one more step in magnification,


one step closer to that secret world ....

Other things I do not pass down.

A shoe box crammed with letters

from old girlfriends:


I pull one out of its envelope

and start to read. The words seem to fade

to nothing in my hands. I imagine

the rest as blank sheets


folded neatly in their envelopes.

I throw them away.

And a box of black and white photos:

one or two, a wheelbarrow,


a gash in a tree, pique my imagination.

Others have lost their meaning.

I throw them away.

One I find belongs to my mother.


It is my father at nineteen

or twenty in a sailor's uniform

with thick. curly hair

and eyes that shine forty years later


like the eyes of a twenty-year-old.

God, he was handsome.

Just yesterday we sat over Cokes

in an airport lounge, rattling the ice in our cups,


when he told me of a weakness they had found

in his heart. He described it in medical terms

and laughed it off. He said

it would make the end come quick and painless.



John Schouten


SV - Highways and Buyways: Naturalistic Research from the Consumer Behavior Odyssey | 1991

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